Page images
PDF
EPUB

language and well-wrought scenes of tragedians, they do not fail of striking us with terror; but then they affect us only in a transient manner, and pass, through our imaginations as incidents in which our fortunes are too humble to be concerned, or which writers form for the ostentation of their own force; or, at most, as things fit rather to exercise the powers of our minds, than to create new habits in them. Instead of such bigh passages, I was think, ing it would be of great use, if any body could hit it, to lay before the world such adventures as befall persons not exalted above the common level. This, methought, would better prevail upon the ordinary race of men ; who are so prepossessed with outward appearances, that they mistake fortune for nature, and believe nothing can relate to them, that does not happen to such as live and look like themselves.

The unhappy end of a gentleman, whose story an acquaintance of mine was just now telling me, would be very proper for this end, if it could be re. lated with all the circumstances as I heard it this evening; for it touched me so much, that I cannot forbear entering upon it.

“ Mr. Eustace, a young gentleman of a good estate near Dublin in Ireland, married a lady of youth, beauty, and modesty, and lived with her, in general, with much ease and tranquillity; but was in his secret temper impatient of rebuke. She was apt to fall into little sallies of passion; yet as suddenly recalled by her own reflection on her fault, and the consideration of her busband's tem: per. ' It happened, as he, his wife, and her sister, were at supper together about two months ago that in the midst of a careless and familiar couversation, the sisters fell into a little warmth and contradiction. He, who was one of that sort of men

who are never unconcerned at what passes before them, fell into an outrageous passion on the side of the sister. The person about whom they disputed was sn near, that they were under no restraint from running into vain repetitions of past heats ; on which occasion all the aggravations of anger and distaste boiled up, and were repeated with the bit. terness of exasperated lovers. The wife, observing her husband extremely moved, began to turn it off, and rally him for interposing between two people, who from their infancy had been angry and pleased with each other every half hour. But it descended deeper into his thoughts, and they broke up with a · sullen silence. The wife immediately retired to her

chamber, whither her husband soon after followed. When they were in bed, he soon dissembled a sleep; and she, pleased that his thoughts were composed, fell into a real one. Their apartment was very distant from the rest of the family, in a lonely countryhouse. He now saw his opportunity, and with a dagger he had brought to bed with him stabbed bis wife in the side. She awaked in the highest terror; but immediately imagining it was a blow designed for her husband by ruffians, began to grasp him, and strove to wake and arouse him to defend himself. He still pretepded himself sleeping, and gave her a second wound.

“ She now drew open the curtain, and by the help of moonlight, saw his hand lifted up to stab ber. The horror disarmed her from further strug. gling; and he, enraged anew at being discovered, fixed his poniard in her bosom. As soon as he believed he had dispatched her, he attempted to escape out of the window: but she, still alive, called to him not to hurt himself; for she might live. He was so stung with the insupportable reflection upon her goodness, and his own villany,

that he jumped to the bed, and wounded her all over with as much rage as if every blow was pro. voked by new aggravations. In this fury of mind he fled away. His wife had still strength to go to her sister's apartment, and give an account of this wonderful tragedy ; but died the next day. Some weeks after, an officer of justice, in attempting to seize the criminal, tired upon him, as did the cri, ainal upon the otficer. Both their balls took place, and both immediately expired.

173, THURSDAY, MAY 18, 1710,

Sapientia prima est
Stultitiâ caruisse.

Hor. Ep. i. 41.
When free from folly, we to wisdom rise.

PRANCIS

Sheer-lane, May 17. When I first began to learn to push, this last win. ter, my master had a great deal of work upon his hands to make me unlearn the postures and motions which I had got, by having in my younger years practised backsword, with a little eye to the single falchion. Knock Down, was the word in the civil wars; and we generally added to this skill the knowledge of the Cornish hug, as well as the grape ple, to play with hand and foot, By this means, I was for defending my head when the French gentleman was making a full pass at my bosom,

VOL. IV.

insomuch that he told me I was fairly killed seven times in one morning, without having done my master any other anischief than one knock on the pate. This was a great misfortune to me; and I believe I may say, without vanity, I am the first who ever pushed so erroneously, and yet conquered the prejudice of education so well, as to make my passes so clear, and recover hand and foot with that agility as I do at this day. The truth of it is, the first rudiments of education are given very indiscreetly by most parents, as much with relation to the more important concerns of the mind, as in the gestures of the body. Whatever children are designed for, and whatever prospects the fortune or interest of their parents may give them in their future lives, they are all promiscuously instructed the same way; and Horace and Virgil must be thumbed by a boy, as well before he goes to an apprenticeship, as to the university. This ridiculous way of treating the under-aged of this island has very often raised both my spleen and dirth, but I think never both at once so much as to-day. A good mother of our neighbourhood made me a visit with . her son and heir; a lad somewhat above five feet, and wants but little of the height and strength of a good musqueteer in any regiment in the service. Her business was to desire I would examine him; for he was far gone in a book, the first letters of which she often saw in my papers. The youth produced it, and I found it was my friend Horace. It was very easy to turn to the place the boy was learning in, which was the fifth Ode of the first book, to Pyrrha. I read it over aloud, as well because I am always delighted when I turn to the beautiful parts of that author, as also to gain time for considering a little how to keep up the mother's pleasure in her child, which I thought barbarity to interrupt. In

the first place I asked him, “ Who this same Pyrrha was ?' He answered very readily, “ She was the wife of Pyrrhus, one of Alexander's captains.” I lifted up my hands. The mother courtsies~" Nay,” says she,-“I knew you would stand in admiration-I assure you,” continued she, “ for all he looks so tall, he is but very youug. Pray ask him some more; never spare him.” With that I took the liberty to ask him, " what was the cha. racter of this gentlewoman ?" He read the three first verses ;

Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa
Perfusus liquidis urget odoribus

Grato, Pyrrha, sub antro? HoR. 1 Od. v. 1. And' very gravely told me, she lived at the sign of The Rose in a cellar. I took care to be very much astonished at the lad's improvements; but withal advised her, as soon as possible, to take him from school, for he could learn no more there. This very silly dialogue was a lively irnage of the impertinent method used in breeding boys without genius or spirit to the reading things for which their heads were never framed But this is the patural effect of a certain vanity in the minds of parents ; who are wonderfully delighted with the thought of breeding their children to accomplishments, which they believe nothing, but want of the same care in their own fathers, prevented them from being masters of. Thus it is, that the part of life most fit for improvement is generally employed in a method against the bent of nature; and a lad of such parts as are fit for an occupation, where there can be no calls out of the beaten path, is two or three years of his time wholly taken up in knowing, how well Ovid's mistress became such a dress; how such a nymph for her cruelty was changed into such an

« PreviousContinue »